Sunday, December 12, 2010

Portrait: Tad Hirozawa

After the San Jose Mercury News ran a nice article about my photography project last October, Tad Hirozawa contacted me about sharing his story of Poston with me. After I photographed Tad at his home in San Jose, we sat down and recorded a lot of material of his memories of the Salinas Assembly Center and the Poston internment camp, where he was a neighbor of the distinguished cartoonist Jack Matsuoka. Tad was twenty years old when his family was forced into internment, so he has excellent memories of the trip to Poston and the living conditions in the camp. He also surprised me with an interesting insight into why internment may have actually been a blessing for some Japanese-Americans (see the last audio recording below).

 (Photo by Andy Frazer)

Tad also gave me copies of the programs for two recent reunions for the Poston II internment camp, which he asked that I give to the Japanese-American Museum of San Jose (detail below).

To listen to many of Tad's memories of the Salinas Assembly Center and the Poston internment camp, please click on the LISTEN links below.
  • Tad describes the trip from Salinas, CA to Poston - Part 1  LISTEN
  • Tad describes the trip from Salinas, CA to Poston - Part 2  LISTEN
  • Tad describes the conditions at Poston - Part 1  LISTEN
  • Tad describes the conditions at Poston - Part 2  LISTEN
  • Tad describes the conditions at Poston - Part 3  LISTEN
  • Tad describes the weather at Poston  LISTEN
  • Tad describes the swimming pool at Poston  LISTEN
  • Tad describes the school at Poston, AZ  LISTEN
  • Tad was a neighbor of published cartoonist Jack Matsuoka at Poston, AZ  LISTEN
  • Tad talks about the loyalty questionaires  LISTEN
  • Tad talks about his unusual mis-assignment to the Military Intelligence Service  LISTEN
  • Tad talks about his thoughts on Japanese-American draft resisters  LISTEN
  • Tad has a surprising opinion on the larger impact of internment on the careers of Japanese-Americans   LISTEN

You can also read the TRANSCRIPT of the above interviews. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Portrait: Taka Hirata

Taka Hirata represents a few "firsts" for my portrait project. Not only was Taka the first person to represent the Topaz internment camp in my project, but she was also the first centenarian that I had the honor of photographing. Taka is 104 years old! Although she needs assistance to stand up, she was able to walk right out the front door and pose for her photograph with only the aid of her walker. She also has a surprisingly strong grip.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Taka and her family were operating a bath house in San Francisco at the outbreak of World War II. Due to Executive Order 9066, they were forced to move to the Tanforan Assembly Center, then eventually the Topaz (Utah) and Tule Lake (California) internment camps.

(Artwork by Kiyo Kamiya)
When I met Taka Hirata, she showed me this great drawing of the Topaz War Relocation Center, which was drawn by her friend Kiyo Kamiya*. It was titled "East View from Blk 28, Topaz, Utah, Aug. 19, 1943". It measures about 11"x17".

I also had the opportunity to photographed her son, James Hirata, who told me some great stories about his experiences moving from San Francisco to Tanforan and then to Topaz at the age of 17.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Portrait: Chizuko Judy Sugita

Last month I was asked to photograph the grand opening of the Japanese-American Museum of San Jose. As part of the opening, the museum featured an exhibition of Chiz Sugita's watercolor paintings of her memories of growing up in the Poston War Relocation Camp (Poston, AZ). Six months earlier I read the book that accompanied her watercolor paintings, so I contacted Chiz and asked if I could meet her prior to the grand opening ceremonies to photograph her portrait. She graciously agreed.

Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz was nine years old when her family was forced to sell their home in Orange County, CA in order to report to internment in Poston, AZ. Her dad sold his bonsai nursery to Walter Knott, of Knott's Berry Farm, with an agreement that he could buy it back after the war. When they returned in 1946, Walter Knott failed to honor his contract. Her dad lost all of the stock to his business, and their personal possessions had been stolen.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Chiz received her Masters in Art at California State University, Dominguez Hills. She subsequently taught in the Palos Verdes School District, where she became the Art Department Chair.

I met Chiz Sugita in 2010 when I was asked to photograph the Grand Opening ceremony of the Japanese-American Museum of San Jose. The museum was hosting a show of Chiz's watercolor paintings from her series Camp Days 1942-1945. I was already familiar with Chiz's work after reading the book that accompanied her project. After graciously arriving early to let me photograph her formal portrait, I photographed Chiz in front of a few of her paintings.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

I told Chiz that her painting Girl Scouts (immediately to her left in the above photograph) was my favorite because of the wonderful story that accompanied it in the book:

"Pretending to be Girl Scouts, we hiked to Clay Mountains. Lost, exhausted and thirsty, we finally made our way home after ten hours. We were so excited to see the outline of our camp against the sunset sky. No one had missed us, since it was still light outside at 7pm."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Portrait: Fran Ellis

In October, 2010 I photographed a member of the Tule Lake Committee: Fran Ellis. Not only does Fran live within two miles of my home, she was the first person I've photographed who was born in one of the War Relocation Camps.

Fran Ellis' dad was drafted into the U.S. Army in February, 1942, just a few days before President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. Fran's mom was four months pregnant in May of that year when the family got their order to leave their home and report to the Walerga (Sacramento) Assembly Center. The family appealed to the American Red Cross so that her dad could get a temporary leave from the Army in order to come home to help them pack up and report for internment. Fran was born in the Tule Lake concentration camp later that year.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Fran's father was a kibei, a term given to people of Japanese descent who were born in the United States, educated in Japan, then returned to the U.S. before the beginning of World War II.  Because of his valuable knowledge of the Japanese language, he was offered a position in the Military Intelligence Service, which worked to translate Japanese military communications. He refused the position due to ethical principles, so he was reduced to the rank of Army 'buck' Private from Army Private First Class, then sent to the 1800th Engineer General Service Battalion. This battalion consisted of soldiers who were considered trouble-makers by the military. Their responsibilities generally consisted of repairing ground that had been damaged by military tank exercises.

Today, Fran is on the Tule Lake Planning Committe for the Tule Lake Pilgrimages, as well as being a committee member of the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

When I photographed Fran, we were also joined by Jacqueline Ramseyer, a photographer from the Bay Area News Group. Jacqueline was working on a newspaper article about my entire project. The article appeared in the Sunnyvale Sun a few weeks later, and was also picked up by the San Jose Mercury News a few days after appearing in the Sun.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

News: Sun Times Newspaper

Yesterday the Sunnyvale Sun (and it's partner newspaper, the Cupertino Courier) wrote a great article about my project to photograph Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. You can read the article without photographs, or you can see the entire article with photographs (in PDF format). The full article came out very well. Photographer Jacqueline Ramseyer published six photographs of myself working with Fran Ellis. Fran is a member of the Tule Lake Pilgrimage Committee, as well as the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee in San Jose, CA.

I will add Fran's photographs to the main website very soon.

I'd also like to thank reporter Tiffany Carney for the great article.

Portrait: Aiko Jio

About two years ago I photographed a wonderful lady named Aiko Jio at the San Jose Day of Remembrance ceremony. At the time I did not know who she was, but I knew that I wanted to photograph a portrait of her for the Kioku project. One and one-half years later I was attending a volunteer picnic for the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee. While I was talking with a few people, I was surprised to learn that this lady was the mom of my friend Gary Jio. I told Gary that I would like to do his mom's portrait, and he immediately help set up our meeting.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Aiko Jio was born and raised in San Jose, CA. After the outbreak of WWII, she was incarcerated at Heart Mountain with her parents, her three sisters and five brothers. Before proceding to the internment camp, Aiko worked with the Japanese-American Citizens' League to help process other internees at the San Jose State University gymnasium located at the corner of 4th and San Carlos St.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Her family was first incarcerated at the Santa Anita Assembly Center before taking the long train ride through Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado before arriving at Heart Mountain in Wyoming.

(Andy Frazer and Aiko Jio, photo by Gary Jio)

Aiko's future husband was already serving the U.S. Army when WWII broke out. They were married in Heart Mountain while he was serving. After he joined the Military Intelligence Service (M.I.S.), the family was reunited at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, MN.

Aiko's father, Torahiko Kawakami, was one of the Issei pioneers in San Jose. He ran the hostel for Japanese-Americans who returned to San Jose after the war.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Portrait: Aggie Idemoto

Aggie (Kadotani) Idemoto was only ten months old when her family was ordered to leave their home in Watsonville, CA and move to the Salinas Assembly Center. Her family was then sent to the Poston (AZ) concentration camp, where her dad got a job as Block Manager in Camp I. Poston was the largest of the ten WRA camps, with 20,000 incarcerees. Being in desert country, it was also the hottest, with some summer days reaching a sweltering 120 degrees.When the camp closed at the end of the war, Aggie's family had to wait for the last train to leave Poston because her mother was expecting a baby. When the last train eventually left, her mom had to carry a two-week old baby all the way back to Watsonville.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Her family temporarily lived at the Watsonville Buddhist Church, which was serving as a hostel. They eventually settled in Pajaro, and moved about within the Watsonville community as her father followed the crops. Aggie eventually became a school teacher and administrator in Oak Grove School District in South San Jose.

Aggie has provided leadership as a coordinator and interviewer for the REgenerations Oral History project, as well as for the Densho Project. She is the President, the Education Director, and the Human Resources Director of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose (JAMsj).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Portrait: Betty Shibayama

I met Betty Shibayama last February at the San Jose Day of Remembrance ceremony at the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin. We were talking about the photograph I took of her husband Arturo Shibayama the previous year. Betty was so pleasant and out-going that I immediately asked her if I could photograph her for the Kioku project.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Betty's family was living in Hood River, Oregon when they were told to leave their home and board the train for the assembly center. Her family was sent eight hundred miles away to the assembly center in Pinedale (Fresno), CA. After three months they were sent back north to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center in northern California. After the "loyalty oath", Tule Lake became a segregation center, and her family was then sent to Minidoka, Idaho.

Betty told me that the dust storms in Minidoka was terrible. People had to wear towels over their faces whenever they went outside. The dust was so bad that Betty's mother developed asthma while in the camp. After the war ended, Betty's family moved to Chicago and her mother's asthma cleared up immediately.

Betty was the first lady, to be part of my project.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Portrait: Lawson Sakai

In January, 2010 I had the honor of photographing Lawson Sakai. When I originally began this project, I had planned to only photograph people who had been held in the internment camps. But at that point, I had never even heard of how some Japanese-Americans had served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. I also didn't realize that the all Japanese-American infantry was the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Lawson's family was not interned during World War II because they were living in Delta, Colorado, which was not inside the designated "Exclusion Zone". Lawson tried to enlist the day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, but he was refused because the government classified him as an "Enemy Combatant". But when the rules changed in late 1943, Lawson enlisted immediately. As part of the 442nd, he saw action in Italy, and later in the Battle of Bruyere, France; as well as the Rescue of the Lost Battalion in the Vosges Mountains in 1944, where he was seriously injured.

This photo session with Lawson was the first time that I was able to record some good quality audio interviews directly with my DSLR camera.You can listen to those interviews by clicking on the links below:
  • Lawson talks about the 442nd RCT in the Battle of Bruyeres, France: LISTEN (2:32)
  • Lawson talks about the 442nd RCT in the Rescue of the Lost Battalion in Biffontain, France: LISTEN (2:56)
  • Lawson talks about his family's journey to Delta, CO. after Executive Order 9066: LISTEN (2:23)
  • Lawson explains how some families protected their property through a legal trust after Executive Order 9066: LISTEN (2:20)

You can also read the TRANSCRIPT of the above interviews. 

Lawson is currently the president of the Friends and Family of Nisei Veterans organiztion, which supports and promotes former members of 442nd infantry. There is also a fascinating article about Lawson's military career in the Gilroy Dispatch newspaper.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Portrait: Joe Yasutaki

Joe Yasutaki was the third person who sat for a portrait for my Kioku project. I had met Joe one year earlier at one of the events sponsored by the Japanese-American Museum in San Jose. As vice-president of the museum, Joe saw me at many other events until I got to the point where I actually started taking formal portraits for this project.
(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Joe Yasutake was nine years old when Executive Order 9066 forced his family to leave their home in Seattle, WA. While they and hundreds of other Japanese-Americans were boarding the train for the assembly center in Puyallup, WA, a news photographer took a photograph of the crowds waiting to be moved out. Joe and his sister instinctively smiled for the photographer. Their photograph appeared in the Seattle newspaper with a caption pointing out how happy they appeared to be because they were being treated so well.

Joe was eventually interned in the Minidoka War Relocation Camp in Idaho, and the Crystal City camp in Texas. He is currently vice-president of the Japanese-American Museum in San Jose.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Portrait: Aturo Shibiyama

I recently photographed Arturo Shibayama. Art's story is unique because he didn't spend time in an internment camp; he didn't serve in the 442nd, and he wasn't in the Military Intelligence Service (all of the original criteria that I had originally set for the Kioku project). Art's story was a surprise to me when I was given the opportunity to photograph him. It's a story that most people in the United States didn't know existed.

Art was born in Peru to parents of Japanese descent. When he was 11 years old, he and his family were forcibly taken from their home in the city of Lima, loaded onto a U.S. Army transport ship and brought under armed guard to the U.S. for the purpose of hostage exchange. Art's family was held in the D.o.J. prison camp in Crystal City, TX. for over two years.

It turns out that the United States government had a secret agreement with the Peruvian government. The U.S. was supporting Peru's war against Ecuador in order to prevent the Nazis from threatening the Panama Canal from Ecuador's airfields. In exchange, Peru allowed the U.S. to kidnap their citizens of Japanese descent in order to use them for prisoner exchange with Japan. It sounds like something out of conspiracy theory. But it really happened. And it resulted in the forcible relocation of 2200 Latin Americans of Japanese descent.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)
And the story gets even more shocking. Even after being drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Art was unable to get American citizenship because he had not entered the U.S. legally.

Today, Art works with the Campaign for Justice to lobby the American government for proper acknowledgement and apology for illegally kidnapping and detaining 2200 Latin American nationals of Japanese descent in U.S. prison camps during WWII. 

You can read more about the plight of the Japanese-Latin Americans and the Campaign for Justice on the Tracked in America website.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Portrait: Roy Matsuzaki

Roy Matsuzaki was the first person who agreed to sit for a formal portrait for this project. I met Roy in 2008 at a breakfast event that brought together some Japanese-American internees and European Holocaust survivors. When I talked to Roy before the event he told me that his family had been forced to leave California, and were sent to each of the two internment camps in Arkansas: the Rohwer and Jerome War Relocation Centers. This was the first that I had ever heard of any internment camps east of Colorado.

During the later 1950's and the early 1960's, Roy was the manager of the San Jose Zebras baseball team.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)

Although I had been practicing my white-seamless-open-shade photography setup for over twelve months prior to our meeting, I was a bit nervous when I arrived to photograph Roy at the Issei Memorial Building in San Jose. But Roy was his usual friendly self and he was very patient while I set up my backdrop and prepared to shoot.

Today, Roy works with the Japanese-American Museum of San Jose where he shares his internment experiences with school children.

(Photo by Andy Frazer)